At the very moment the fight against antisemitism is focused on derailing an effort by anthropologists to convince their professional association to boycott Israeli academic institutions, the Biden administration declared its own antisemitic boycott of those in the West Bank.
The decision is especially ironic given that it just launched its strategy for combating antisemitism to great fanfare. Combined with its inclusion of the antisemitic Council on American-Islamic Relations in that strategy, failure to provide any funding and refusal to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, this policy makes it a complete farce.
The Biden announcement also looks foolish given that the United Kingdom has just passed a law banning boycotts of Israel that includes those directed at Jews in the West Bank.
The current Israeli government has gone out of its way to anger the administration, but that is no excuse to adopt a policy that does not punish the government but is directed at Jews who happen to work less than an hour from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
The administration boycott is no less outrageous than that of Ben & Jerry’s, which prompted international outrage and caused multiple states to divest from the parent company because it violated their anti-boycott laws.
There is a federal anti-boycott law, but because of Democrats in Congress, that has been restricted to preventing cooperation with the Arab League boycott but not the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. In any event, this administration has shown through subsidizing Palestinian terror by ignoring the Taylor Force Act that it will not be bound by any restrictions aimed at protecting Jews.
Worse, the administration has completely undermined the fight against Jew-hatred by giving antisemites a license to boycott Jews. Instead of advancing the cause of peace, its actions punish innocent Jews uninvolved in the political conflict and legitimize the BDS movement. As Rabbi Eric Yoffie, former president of the Reform movement and a frequent critic of Israeli policy, observed: “It is impossible to distinguish between different types of boycotts. … Those who claim that they only support the boycott of Ariel but oppose the BDS movement are making distinctions that will not be clear to anyone but themselves.”
The antisemitic boycott of Israeli academic institutions is just the latest example of how the U.S. State Department has all but declared war on Israel. No one should be surprised, given that the Israel haters of the Obama administration run it. Their excuse for the latest attack is that they are simply returning to the previous policy. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s picture ought to be on posters of Einstein’s definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
As with the anthropologists, what does Blinken think he is accomplishing by denying funds for scientific and agricultural research to Ariel University in Samaria? This is his idea of preserving his two-state delusion? Does he believe this will change Israeli policy one iota or do anything to help the Palestinians? If so, he is suffering from delirium. This antisemitic policy will do the opposite.
First, it only demonstrates to Israelis they cannot trust this administration and that Biden is only interested in punishing them while ignoring the incitement and terror of the Palestinians. Like BDS advocates, the administration is blaming the conflict only on Israel. Rather than their stated goal of advancing peace, they further entrench maximalist Palestinian demands and strengthen those who seek Israel’s demise. By hardening the position of Israelis, the administration does the Palestinians no favors.
This isn’t new, as the administration has already shown its inability to distinguish between good and evil and its obsession with even-handedness. Jews criticized former President Donald Trump for his “there are fine people on both sides” comment after the neo-Nazi march and counterdemonstration in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017; Biden’s mouthpieces have essentially been saying when terrorists murder Jews, “There are bad people on both sides.”
Beyond politics, the funds being cut off for research and business collaboration only deny the Palestinians, as well as Americans and people around the world, the benefits of the investigation. The administration barred grants from the Binational Science Foundation (BSF), which is apolitical and supports basic science. BSF has funded more than 5,000 research projects involving thousands of scientists from more than 400 U.S. institutions in 46 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. These projects have led to significant scientific, medical and technological breakthroughs with wide-ranging practical applications.
The Binational Agricultural Research and Development Foundation (BARD) focuses on increasing agricultural productivity, plant and animal health, and food quality and safety. Researchers have been influential in creating new technologies in drip irrigation, pesticides, fish farming, livestock, poultry, disease control and farm equipment. BARD funds projects in 45 states and the District of Columbia. A 40-year review in 2019 involving 20 case studies estimated the foundation’s contribution to the U.S. economy at $2.7 billion, to Israel’s $500 million and to other countries’ $13.3 billion.
The third organization affected by the administration boycott is the Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD), which funds joint U.S.-Israeli teams to develop and commercialize innovative, nondefense technological products. Since 1977, the foundation has approved investments in more than 1,000 projects, which have yielded direct and indirect revenues of more than $10 billion.
Supporting this work is an obstacle to peace?
I’ve accused the State Department of stupidity, but it’s gone beyond that to malevolence, a return to the Arabist approach of the 1940s and ’50s when diplomats wanted to prevent the establishment of Israel and, failing that, weaken it and prevent the development of close relations.
Israel aside, Blinken has neutered Deborah Lipstadt, his envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, who can’t seriously ask other countries to eliminate Jew-hatred when her government has adopted an antisemitic policy. Lipstadt, it should be recalled, said after the Academic Union in the United Kingdom called for an academic boycott of Israel “actions by groups such as the UCU are not just virulently anti-Israel but actually antisemitic.”
Biden sees the polls and figures he can take the Jewish vote for granted. Former President Jimmy Carter made the same mistake and blamed the Jews for his defeat after they abandoned him over his anti-Israel image. Ironically, Carter was the one who signed the federal anti-boycott law.
In 2019, 136 international Jewish organizations signed a statement condemning calls to boycott Israeli academic institutions and declaring that they are counterproductive to the goal of peace,
antithetical to freedom of speech and part of a greater effort to undermine the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in their homeland: Israel.
These organizations should assert that the U.S. boycott of Israeli academic institutions, wherever they may be, is unconscionable. The Jewish community needs an Elie Wiesel with the backbone and principles to speak truth to power and tell the president that rather than fighting antisemitism, his State Department is perpetuating it.